To feel like you belong

It’s been along time since I really felt that I happily belonged to a community. Totally and utterly belonged. Let me walk you through this gently as this is not me pointing fingers.

My oldest child was born in Mackay. We’d just moved there thanks to my husband’s promotion. I was so excited too. Newly married and a beautiful baby. We joined a Playgroup and immediately I noticed developmental differences with my baby and his peers. I started explaining and justifying and felt like I never stopped. Until now that is.

After my son’s diagnosis we moved back to Brisbane. I had a toddler and a new born. Those early years were fairly simple and happy. We had close family. My kids were happy and loved. Starting Prep was nerve wracking but relatively painless. Venturing to the shops or out for dinner was another thing.

My little boy would have a hard time and instead of receiving offers of help I would be judged on my parenting and he was labeled a naughty child. Complete strangers felt it was their place to judge and be unkind. But worse was when people I knew judged. Or approached me with their well intended but mostly ignorant advice.

Irrespective of my stance on immunisation and I support it; it’s not helpful to hear that someone is that threatened by autism that they’d choose to not immunise or that we should have not done so. My son was born autistic. My family have felt judged and excluded in many ways for a very long time.

We tried lots of things. Soccer, swimming club, dance just to name a few. As Clay grew older and his peers developed more complex friendship networks we were left behind. The cruelty of some Mothers at school upon the onset of my mental illness just sealed the deal.

As a little family we were very happy but until this year I didn’t realise we never felt like we belonged.

So the social group I started for my son to help him find his tribe opened up a world for all of us. My daughter found other siblings who protected their brother or sister. By her choice she leads a fairly insular life. I have now witnessed her in social situations I’ve never seen before.

My son is suddenly the coolest kid in the room. This is not something I thought I would ever write about him. Of course I know he’s cool and funny but not many people make the effort to learn this.

I met my peers and we could just look at each other and understand. We know what it’s like to be judged, to ask our schools to do more, to try harder.

Importantly we could sit around talking about anything we wanted because the behaviour of our children was not being scrutinised. We did not bat our eyes. We watched stimming, and other things and we just turned back to each other and kept talking.

This group is where we should have been years ago. It’s so important to feel like you fit in. To feel accepted and not feel that you have to apologise or explain. Better yet, because of this feeling of belonging I don’t feel the need to apologise or explain in any social situation now. We may not fit in at some places but that’s okay we don’t have to.

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